Never send this text to your mother:
Never call your wife on the other side of the country, clearly upset, and say with great foreboding: “There’s been an incident.”
For a few minutes yesterday I experienced All The Bad Things That Could Happen, all at once. There was a fire. There was an attack. There was the boy jumping off the 2nd story deck, climbing into a hot oven and eating all the meds in the cabinet (he’s actually attempted all of these things btw).
I didn’t know the details. I didn’t take time to process it all rationally. For a few heart-stopping, gut-clenching moments I just KNEW that my babies were dead.
This is a better opener. Even if everyone is not completely perfect. Even if you need help/sympathy. Even if you have an exciting, dramatic tale to tell.
It could have been Bad. I can’t imagine how scary and traumatic it was for my husband.
He’s already a hero for staying home alone with the 3 youngest kids, while I took the most helpful one away on a grand adventure. Now, he’s got a harrowing tale to seal the deal.
He’s changed dozens of tires, maybe hundreds. Despite technically knowing how to do it myself, I am decidedly un-feminist when it comes to automotive care. He’s been changing my tires since I was 16 (and, no, that’s not a euphemism).
He didn’t think much of it. Just another chore in an overwhelmingly busy week. In a split second, with the smallest shift on our uneven driveway he found his arm pinned under the van.
Kids on their own.
I’m sure my 11-year-old was equally panicked! But she called 911 and kept the littles inside, away from the action. While she began to explain the situation to the operator a neighbour arrived. She (clearly a better feminist than I) jacked the van back up and helped Glen pull his arm out. A practical nurse by trade, she examined his arm. Bruised, swollen, painful, but nothing seemed broken. Crisis averted.
It could have been Very Bad. I’ve run those scenarios through my mind too. Somehow it seems worse because I was so far away.
Even now, as I write this on a seatback tray-table at 23,000 feet winging my way home I feel better the closer I get to home.
As if I can protect them.
As if I can hold trouble at bay.
Or lift a van off my best friend with my bare hands.
At least I can make sure he actually gets that hand x-rayed. And takes it easy. And knows that I don’t take a minute with him for granted.
For some people, that text, that call, really is Very Bad News, painful beyond imagining. A friend’s cousin was pinned under his car and died just last month. There seem to be endless tragic possibilities lurking around every corner.
It makes us want to hide. To wrap our loved ones up in bubble wrap and keep them far from every threat.
But that is not a life.
Instead we remember how fragile and precious every second is. We won’t pretend we are immune, but prize each exciting adventure, each meaningful connection and each peaceful moment, all the more. Maybe the occasional close call is a gift in that way.
My 11-year-old can’t wait to tell me every thrilling detail. My husband can’t wait to hand over the cooking and the diapering and the getting-up-in-the-night. I can’t wait to hold them close and finally breath properly again.
Also, I will be changing the next tire myself.
So here’s me, SO grateful for all those who rode to the rescue when I couldn’t – our neighbour and our friends (especially Ray for fixing our tire – bold move) and my parents. Also, Colleen and Miguel for talking me through the panic.
Stay tuned for more about our NYC/Boston trip…
October 22nd, 2013 at 7:22 am
One my husband’s memorable welcome home lines when my son was about 2: “Well, we think we’ve got the bleeding stopped.” WHAT!?
October 22nd, 2013 at 1:04 pm
That’s EVEN worse! You must have been panicked. Only funny in retrospect.
October 22nd, 2013 at 10:31 pm
You made me smile with this post. I had a similar call from my mother when she was with my eldest at their cabin. She said “There’s been an accident….” note the… was in my ooinion like 5 minutes where I envisioned ny first born broken or dead when it was my step-father who hurt himself…not life threatening injuries but severe enough. But my baby was ok and that was what mattered to me in the moment.
October 24th, 2013 at 10:42 am
4 most foreboding words in the English language. I always think it must be my kids too. Guess that’s our worst fear.